The Upper Sauer lake, a wonder lake in the Ardennes of the Grand Duchy

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On a hot summer day, on one of those days of sweltering heat that makes bodies bake and sweat run down the neck, the country finds some relief in the cool water sources around the country, especially in the much sought-after Upper Sauer Lake.

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The Upper Sauer Lake is an artificial reservoir, which was created following the construction of the Esch-sur-Sûre curved dam in 1957. The dam created a 3.8 km2 water reservoir which, besides providing drinking water to 70% of the population, also created a water paradise. There is a lake and some tiny beaches where several nautical activities are permitted, as long as no engines are involved. All of this is packed into a spectacular landscape, amid one of the country’s nature parks; the Upper Sauer.

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For the most intrepid travellers, canoeing or kayaking are wonderful ways to explore the lake at one’s leisure. We walked to the floating bridge of Lultzhausen and rented a kayak for the morning, so that we had enough time to navigate ‘upstream’, along the many smaller branches of the Upper Sauer. From there, we slowly drifted to the two green-grass beaches of Insenborn, where many beach-goers had laid their beach towels alongside their picnic grills. From the middle of the lake we could smell the sunscreen as much as the grillingers crackling on the barbecues.

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On the other shore of the lake, the yacht club of Liefrange appears to be the place to learn how to sail; based on the number of kids taking to the sail in their tiny Optimists. With comfortable wind speeds and uncrowded waters, the conditions seemed indeed ideal to spread one’s sail. We paddled away from Liefrange, making a mental note to visit the club later on, to find out about sailing lessons for adults. This has been part of our plans for a couple of years, and every time we pass a marina we get another push. It’s never too late to learn, right?

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After paddling back to Lultzhausen we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the terrace of the youth hostel. If paddling is not your thing, it is also possible to explore the lake as part of an organised boat tour, which we did in the afternoon. We headed to Insenborn to get tickets to board the Princesse Alexandra, the lake’s popular solar-powered boat. As it can only accommodate twenty people on board, it is better to book your place in advance. We were very excited to be about to navigate the lake on board a sustainable boat that was powered by solar energy. It sounded ecological and silent, and that felt good. The experience was indeed quiet and relaxing, and we enjoyed the views of the valley without having any of the physical effort of paddling. Many of the trees around the lake were blossoming, with a lot of pink showing on the chestnut trees. However, the predominant colour remained a luxuriant green from all of the conifers, oaks and beech trees. Instead of doing the complete tour with the solar boat, which brings passengers back to Insenborn, we opted for the Amphibian Tour, which left us ashore at the halfway point. We got off at Bärel and hiked back along an 8-kilometre trail on the northern shore of the lake until we reached Lëltz (Lultzhausen in Luxembourgish).

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The other exciting way to discover the lake is definitely by circumnavigating it on foot. The ‘Circuit du Lac’ is a 43-km trail that offers incredible views and interesting insights into the unique flora and fauna of the Upper Sauer Lake. The circuit is divided into two parts (a western and an eastern part) and is easily walked in three days (although proficient hikers can do it in two days).

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Camping sites (Liefrange), hostels (Lutzhausen) or hotels (Esch-sur-Sûre) are easily found in the eastern part, whereas the western trek does not really pass through any locality with accommodation. We did it in three days in order to appreciate not only the lake but also the beaches.

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One of our favourite experiences on the lake is a combination of activities. We leave Liefrange in a canoe or kayak with a picnic, and paddle until Burfelt, where we have a break for swimming and sun-bathing in the big green meadow. One should also not miss the opportunity to visit the Forest Discovery Centre to gain a deeper overview of the flora and fauna of the region. From there, a short walk up the hill takes you to one of the most interesting viewpoints over the lake and its surroundings: the Belvédère. This architecturally gripping vantage point is a panoramic platform, partially made of glass, and it overlooks the lake at a height of 70 metres. People who suffer from vertigo may find it difficult to approach the glassed edge of the platform, but the views really are amazing.

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For a break from all the water activity, we decided to visit the smallest village in Luxembourg – Rindschleiden. Ten minutes away from the lake, we found the only one-soul village in the country. In what looks like a selection that was hand-picked to keep one man content in terms of culture, spirituality and stomach, the village accommodates one museum, one church and one bistro.

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At the time of our visit, not a single person was in sight, so we strolled about on our own. The museum was closed, the Bistrot Miro was by reservation only, and we assumed the sole inhabitant of the village must have been on holiday – all the window shades of his home were closed.

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All that remained open was the church. In we went! St Willibrord church strikes the distracted traveller who enters – as we did – without expectations. As with so many things in Luxembourg, humble exteriors hide interior treasures. It was only when we were inside the church that we realised that this forgotten village, eschewed even by Luxembourgers, hides one of the country’s gems of cultural heritage. We were dumbfounded by the church’s 15th century frescoes that covered the entire ceiling. It is one of the oldest churches in the country and is considered by many as one of the most beautiful churches in Luxembourg. What an enthralling piece of art there is here in Rindschleiden, the one-inhabitant village.

After such an amazing discovery, and in order to recover from this revelation, we indulged in the meditation path, a 1.5-kilometre-long trail through the woodland around Rindschleiden. This circuit invites the walker to meditate and contemplate along its twelve stations. In each station we are invited to linger for a moment and to reflect silently on the text displayed on the corresponding signs. Other stations invite us to observe nature or to make music with chimes. By the end of the walk, it is impossible not to feel in peace and in tune with nature.

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We gave a last look to the lonely village, realising that we wouldn’t meet the lucky man, who lives in such a peaceful place. As for us, it was time to return to our lively camping site in the Upper Sauer. As we walked up the hill to Liefrange, we couldn’t help but think that this area, with the beautiful lake, the wooden valley and dreamy villages really is an enchanting place to live…

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